If I say the name Michelangelo, just about everyone knows whom I am referencing. Perhaps you are conjuring up an image of the David, the Sistine Chapel or the Pieta. You might be thinking of his stature in the art world as one of the great, if not the greatest, artists and architects of the Italian Renaissance. And you would not be wrong.
But Michelangelo had access to something that most other artists of his era, or indeed any era, are never so fortunate to have: a patron.
The powerful Medici family, community and religious leaders (as in two popes), discovered his talent and took Michelangelo in under their wing when he was just a boy. They educated him with his Medici peers, they commissioned great work from him, and they afforded him the time and money necessary to envision, create and display his most impressive art. And they did this for the great majority of his lifetime.
Who are the Medicis today?
I recently had a conversation with a couple that attended The State of the Arts event we hosted. The man said, “We sat in that audience full of art makers and business supporters, and we kind of wondered what we were doing there. We’re not artists and we are not amazing supporters of the arts. We felt kind of odd.”
My response was immediate because I know this family just a bit; I know that their children are heavily involved in the arts — classes, performances, competitions, creation and more. I said, “But you have successfully learned the all important art of check writing to enable and encourage your children’s study of the arts!”
That’s it. This couple is one type of modern-day arts patrons. They are subsidizing their children’s immersion in the arts, and because their children study with area arts organizations and artists, they are actively supporting them as well.
I see this couple at fundraisers for the arts. They are at performances of various arts organizations. They donate their time and other skills to the arts groups that have meaning in their own lives. They are true arts patrons.
In a perfect world, we would all have a Medici in our lives, although I would argue that the price of being “owned” by one family might be higher than most of us are willing to pay.
But back to that perfect world, we would all have wealthy donors who wrote big, unrestricted checks for our artistic visions. Wealthy donors who had an artistic vision of their own and enabled us to carry that vision out, regardless of time or cost. But there are few, if any, of those kinds of patrons left in the world today. Perhaps there never really were.
And I actually think that’s OK.
What our arts community needs more of are the above-mentioned couple. We need more people who invest in the arts because they see the value of it for their children, for themselves and for their community. People who write checks for classes, costumes, supplies and more. Those who purchase extra tickets and bring friends and extended family to concerts and performances. The folks who bid up the silent auction items at the fundraisers they attend. Volunteers who support the arts in ways large and small.
Can you be that kind of patron of the arts?
If every person would support the arts in any of these ways — purchase an extra ticket and invite a friend; bid more than you would pay other places for an item on the silent auction; donate your skill set to an arts organization that matters to you (photography, design, costumes, stuffing envelopes, etc.) — the arts would be better supported and able to do even more to enhance our great community.
This is part of that larger mix of public, corporate, grant and private support for the arts that is so desperately needed for a healthy arts community to grow, and it’s a part in which just about every person can participate.
Will you take up the challenge and be a modern-day patron of the arts? Will you invest your time, your talents, your dollars and your voice to ensuring that the arts in the metro not only survive, but also thrive?
Think what modern-day Michelangelos are just waiting for your piece of the support of the arts to shine.
Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership, writes a monthly column for Variety. For more information on the arts, go to theartspartnership.net.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and originally appeared in the Monday, June 20, 2016, issue of the paper.